The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of just two teams who have not quite hit the 2012 NFL first quarter point in the season following their bye week this past Sunday, but everyone in the organization knows that a 1-2 record will not sit well in Steeler Nation. Pittsburgh has certainly not played the most challenging schedule to this point, but they also have not been entirely healthy to begin the season. That could all be about to change.
When the Steelers take on the Philadelphia Eagles in a key Keystone State battle, the Steelers could finally have Rashard Mendenhall in their backfield for the first time this season. He has missed the first three games of the season, and the running game has struggled mightily, ranking just 31st out of a possible 32 in rushing yards per game. Mendenhall could make a huge difference, although the team will still monitor his carries for the first couple of games.
Pittsburgh could also get Troy Polamalu and James Harrison back on defense. The Steelers have been very good defensively through the first three games, ranking third in passing yards allowed and 14th in rushing yards allowed, but the return of Polamalu and Harrison would make a world of difference. Considering their upcoming schedule, Pittsburgh is going to need all hands on deck.
Offensively, Ben Roethlisberger has been carrying the team as the Steelers rank seventh in passing yards per game, although even he has not been able to lead them to a winning record in the AFC North. Pittsburgh is looking up in the standings at the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. They will need a much better effort on the ground, but here is a look at what the Steelers have been able to do so far on offense.
Ben Roethlisberger: 82 completions of 120 attempts for 904 yards // 8 TD and 1 INT
Isaac Redman: 32 carries for 72 yards // 1 TD
Jonathan Dwyer: 24 caries for 70 yards // 0 TD
Antonio Brown: 18 catches for 240 yards // 1 TD
Mike Wallace: 17 catches for 234 yards // 3 TD
Heath Miller: 15 catches for 129 yards // 4 TD
Emmanuel Sanders: 10 catches for 121 yards // 0 TD
As you can clearly see, the run game has been abysmal. With the return of Mendenhall, Redman and Dwyer figure to see far fewer carries, as they have been quite inefficient so far. Roethlisberger is spreading the ball around well with Brown, Wallace and Miller always in the mix. In fact, Miller’s numbers could remain steady throughout the season, as Roethlisberger has stated that his goal is to get his tight end to the Pro-Bowl this season. Averaging more than a touchdown per game is off to a solid start.
On defense, the Steelers have recorded just five sacks and one interception through the first few games, and they have allowed over 30 points in two out of their first three contests, leading to their disappointing 1-2 record. The Steelers will need to improve on defense going forward f they have any real hopes of reaching the postseason once again this season. They will also have to run the ball much more effectively, or they may be watching the top two teams run away in the AFC North while they wallow in mediocrity.
In the kicking game, Shaun Suisham is a perfect 5-for-5 in field goals, and if the Steelers are involved in close games, Suisham will need to come up big at the end of games. Through just three games, due to an inconsistent defense late in games and relatively no ground game to speak of, the Steelers receive a grade of a C- heading into week 5 of the NFL season.